Lipetzky doc tackles efforts to curb LA gang violence

How former gang leaders are helping to reverse the violence and keep the peace in South Central Los Angeles, known “as the gang capital of America,” is the timely subject of a documentary directed by former Chicago editor/director James Lipetzky.

The feature-length doc, “A License to Operate,” was originally initiated by LA branding agency Omelet Studios as a short fundraising video, which was produced by Lipetzky’s Culver City-based Foundation Content 

on behalf of community nonprofit, A Better LA

It was founded by Pete Carroll, head coach of the Seattle Seahawks, when he was at USC. With more than 450 gangs in LA, its mission is to change gang violence using gang prevention and community-based solutions. Carroll served as the doc’s executive producer.

After two years in production, the 101-minute doc made its world premiere May 26-28 as one of 10 films in prestigious Documentary Competition in the currently running Seattle International Film Festival. The winner will announced at the fest’s closing on June 7.

“Both screenings were sold out and distribution offers are on the table,” reports Samantha Hart, Foundation’s executive producer. 

Editor/director James LipetzkyLipetzky, DP Jeremiah Hammeling, a doc specialist, producer Mike Wallen, Omelet Studio’s chief content officer and a small crew spent 2013’s hot summer “killing season” on the streets of South Central as they followed former members of the notorious rival Bloods and Crips gangs, through the viewpoint f those doing the work in LA, working together to effect positive change within the community, such as resolving conflicts that could cause retaliatory deaths and keeping the peace.

Lipetzky spent most of 2014 editing the footage, which included overhead shots of the crime-ravaged area captured by drones equipped with EOS Canon C500 digital cinema cameras.

“License to Operate” is Lipetzky’s first feature doc, although he is best known as an award-winning editor of national commercials for 26 years. He started his career as an assistant at Cutters, rising to editor, and spent nine years with Red Car until he and Hart started Foundation Content in River North in 2004. 

While commercials for national advertisers were its main focus, Foundation expanded into a variety of genres of content production.  In January, 2013 Foundation closed shop here and moved to LA, where Hart is originally from, and opened a studio in Culver City’s Hayden Tract.

Lipetzky retains many of his Chicago clients.